Resolution in Opposition to Violence in Labor Disputes
The Anti-Racketeering Act of 1934 (The Copeland Act) marked the beginning of federal authority to prosecute and punish criminal acts of extortion affecting commerce. In response to union fears that the law could be applied to non-violent forms of protest, the bill was amended to read “[t]hat no court of the United States shall construe or apply any of the provisions of this Act in such a manner as to impair, diminish, or in any manner affect the rights of bona-fide labor organizations in lawfully carrying out the legitimate objectives thereof, as such rights are expressed in existing statutes of the United States.” The Act was later amended by the Hobbs Act which provided that violent acts could be prosecuted under the Copeland Act, even where the acts were carried out in the name of legitimate objectives of bona fide labor organizations. The Hobbs Act was not meant to preempt state and local laws already in place to combat violence, but rather to supplement such laws. However, the corrections made to the Copeland Act by the Hobbs Act were nullified by the Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Enmons, which held that the Hobbs Act is not applicable to violence that takes place in “an effort to promote appropriate collective bargaining demands.” The Resolution in Opposition to Violence in Labor Disputes affirms the principle that violence in labor disputes is contrary to good public policy and urges governments at all levels to enforce current mechanisms and pass further legislation to deter such violence.
WHEREAS, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the courts have generally held that federal labor laws do not preempt local laws with respect to tortious and criminal conduct by union members; and
WHEREAS, the NLRB generally does not protect employees who engage in such conduct; and
WHEREAS, some cases have been vague as to what constitutes protected union conduct, with the NLRB observing in one case that “the emotional tension of a strike almost inevitably gives rise to a certain amount of disorder and … conduct on a picket line cannot be expected to approach the etiquette of the drawing room or breakfast table;” and
WHEREAS, many court decisions on the state and federal level have created vague standards with respect to the applicability of criminal laws to union violence; and
WHEREAS, union officials should not be immune from prosecution under federal, state and local law for violence committed in furtherance of union objectives; and
WHEREAS, disputes arising in the labor-management arena are best resolved through open discussion of ideas, and never through senseless violence directed at persons or property; and
WHEREAS, the use of violence is ultimately detrimental to all parties involved, often creating permanent animosities that forever color the working environment and lower productivity;
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the State/Commonwealth of (insert state) affirms the principle that violence in labor disputes is contrary to good public policy and urges governments at all levels to enforce current mechanisms and pass further legislation to deter such violence.
Approved by ALEC Board of Directors on June 2007.
Reapproved by ALEC Board of Directors on January 28, 2013.